Gear of the Year 2018: Best Controller

Gear of the Year, Novation SL MkIII

After testing out several controllers the past 12 months, we’ve decided to pick our favourite from the bunch. Drum roll, please…

Gear of the Year, Novation SL MkIII

WINNER: Novation SL MkIII

Price £540-£630
Contact Novation

The original Novation SLs had the revolutionary Automap technology that controlled whatever software plug-in was loaded. SL MkIII has ditched that to embrace the hardware that everyone and their dog is now using. Yes, this is a keyboard and controller designed to be at the hub of the kind of hardware/software studio you see the cool kids in loft apartments using.

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It’ll have Eurorack, it’ll have lots of bright lights, it will have software, and there will be vinyl somewhere in the room. Add Novation’s new controller and the picture is complete.

While we might jest about that, the real grin-on-face moment happens when you realise exactly what SL MkIII does and how it does it. Fancy controlling eight pieces of hardware and software at the same time? Fancy operating each one from a different zone on a keyboard? Just flick a switch here and you are controlling Live; another there and you’ve plugged into your modular-synth rack… Yep, this is very much a controller for now.

In his review, a lightly sugared-up Andy Jones said: “Once you get your head around that this is essentially an eight-track multi-channel controller that can take on eight different pieces of hardware and software, sequence each one and then offer you unheard of control over each of their innards, you realise that this, quite simply, the product of the year. SL MkIII is genuinely the most exciting piece of tech I’ve reviewed in 2018. Incredible.”

Read our full review here.

Highly commended

Nektar Pacer

Nektar Pacer

Price £199
Contact Nektar

A foot controller for your DAW might sound like something you think you don’t need but, once tried, you’ll wonder what you’ve been doing with your lower limbs all these years. Andy Jones concluded: “You thought gear like this was just for guitarists, but Pacer brings an unprecedented level of DAW control to your feet. It’s a great buy for recording guitarists, but all DAW users might enjoy its footsie ways.”

Read our full review here.

PreSonus FaderPort 8

faderport 8

Price £410
Contact PreSonus

There have been countless attempts at DAW control and this is a fantastic, compact and cool-looking unit that is not only great with Presonus’ own Studio One, but makes a decent controller for most DAWs. Reviewer Andy Jones said: “A fantastic bundle of control and software that brings pro music features and control to the masses.”

Read our full review here.

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